Over the past decades, I've been fortunate to receive awards and important nominations for my writing and painting. That helped support me financially but rarely helped when facing the next blank page or canvas. A steady focus on the work did, and continual experimenting along with rigorous honesty about the results. I'm also fortunate that I never "have to" retire from this work or surrender learning as a constant companion.
In painting, I've developed a special affinity for using Essential Lines and Complementary Colors. They are two powerful methods that expand the variations possible in standard painting techniques. Other painting methods certainly influence my other art-making, but these two favorites have had a great impact on my own way of seeing in art-making.
Using Essential Lines is a stringent approach to figurative painting - by essential lines, I mean using only those which create major visual image structures, not decorative touches. A few examples are included here with from my Wire People series. This method keeps me focused on portraying the primary forces in making imagery that reveals life energy on canvases. Viewers have often responded to these canvases with a deep, direct connection.
Essential Lines demands that an artist keeps primary imagery stripped to where not another single structural line can be removed, or a curve shifted or a form tilted more, without the visual energy breaking down somewhat. Equally critical is allowing no unnecessary structural lines, which often arises from artists falling in love with their creations. As William Faulkner once stated crudely about writing, "You have to know when to kill your favorite babies." This is especially true in this painting method since unnecessary lines clutter and dilute visual energy. So the imperative is that either too few or too many structural lines cause a loss in the full life energy that is possible.
This is not a restricted way of creating but one that disciplines to focus solely on tasks at hand. The reward is working with specifically powerful creative passions. With those thoughts in mind, view my painting, "Stolen Memories".
To me the Kneeling Dancer conveys deep longing via the specific curvature of her back. Also by the reach of only part of her arm and the other hand shown. Suppose her back was arched more, would that convey more longing? Or shift her appearance to seem unnatural? Suppose her back were straightened up, would she appear more dynamic? What if the inner lines of her back were removed entirely, would her longing still project as naturally desirous? Or make her appear less genuine in this expressionistic portrayal of reality? And what of the lone arm's partial reach? If extended to also be seen behind the other dancer's legs, would that extension impact the moment more so? Or only create visual clutter?
Now on to Complementary Colors - complementary means colors that lie opposite in the full spectrum - blue to orange, red to green, violet to yellow, et cetera. Applying these colors side-by-side, unblended, activates a natural phenomenon where they optically mix in viewers' minds. We see these color combinations with heightened vibrancy, which projects feelings viscerally to viewers. Colors used this way in their pure state triggers this effect most vividly, though even when subtly mixed to "cool" the vibrancy somewhat, the new mixtures still project slightly muted energy outward. Remember, when showing these finished paintings, they must be lit effectively.
These color dynamics are perhaps more strongly experienced in making abstract paintings - another area that benefits from an artist's personal experimenting. See the "Monsoon Lightning" painting included here to view this without the additional forces of line imagery. Abstracts made this way powerfully convey the "What is happening" as well as any drive of "Emotional Feeling".
"Monsoon Lightning" began with cadmium medium yellow covering the entire surface. Then using a controlled splatter technique of pure colors, I gradually built up an interplay of color energies layer by layer. I carefully allowed the underlying base yellow to peek through and also I was careful not to crowd the colors close together while interweaving them on top. This allowed all colors to breathe their own special energy onto the surface - this is very important. Lastly I applied the looser "explosive" white lightning splatter for the vivid feel of night skies being shattered by sudden fierce light.
Neither does this method constrain an artist creatively, since once this process is thoroughly absorbed, a freeing up results and intensity builds easily generated from primal instinct. That combined with how risky this practice is since very few ways exist to "fix" things afterward, artists live on a wonderfully exciting high-wire act . Personally, I cherish that feeling.
Consider the following three viewer types that I've witnessed over many years when showing abstracts. There's viewers who cannot, or will not, visually engage with paintings that have no clear images to focus on; others prefer imageless abstracts where their minds and spirits can roam freely; and lastly those who want to engage both methods above - image and abstract - in combination. This last choice can be viewed in Memories" and some other paintings included here.
Personally I embrace all three options. Which I use depends on what I want a painting to convey. I think of them - of all methods in painting - as tools in my tool box, and the more effective ones I own, the greater the range of my choices and the visual stories I can share.
For me, powerful lines and dominant colors are the visual engines that best connect feelings to viewers - that's for me.
Give this an honest try if you're interested. Thanks for reading.